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Diabetes Awareness Month: More Support, More Understanding Needed

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Remember November

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Diabetes Education And Understanding Matters

Over the last several years, I've made it my responsibility to write about Diabetes Awareness Month, or simply November. The thing is, there's never been anything simple about diabetes. That's something I've come to learn over the years.

I've told you before about my diabetes warrior buddy, whom I've known since he was about five or six. Now, this young man is 17 and in his final year of high school. He and his mother have, in many ways, been my educational bedrock as far as diabetes is concerned. I've watched him play hockey and achieve his third-degree black belt in karate. I've watched as he came into the dojo with a range of injuries, from glue gun scorch marks to broken bones, and admired how unflinchingly he just rolled with the punches.

I've come to understand that while this is, in many ways, simply a part of who he is, it's also a function of dealing with the various issues that crop up with a chronic disease like diabetes. I remember one sparring night where he was out, kicking my butt and just generally having fun, and the pod in his arm for whatever reason became detached and fell out. Everyone in the dojo - particularly the ones who knew him relatively well - just stared, hoping that he would be okay and that he wouldn't suddenly need to be rushed to the hospital. He shrugged casually, mopped up his arm, and said he should be fine for the next several hours and that he'd be able to have a pod in again long before that. I remember marvelling at how calm he was about this mishap, but in retrospect, I know he's dealt with worse issues when it comes to his diabetes.

He has to carefully monitor his blood sugar, ensuring that it doesn't go too high or too low. He has to listen to his body in a way that few of us do because he has to recognize the signals his body sends him that things are somehow off. He's a teenager, and every time his teenage hormones assert themselves, that could also mean his sugars are thrown off to one extreme or the other, which in turn can cause cognitive fog or other issues. There have been middle of the night experiences where he's awoken, unsure of where he is or who he even is.

While that can be intense and scary, I can't even imagine what he and his family have been through over the years - and I can't imagine what it would be like if he was part of a family that did not have the resources to effectively supply him with everything he needs to survive. According to CBC, "Canadians spend more than $1,500 Cdn per year on diabetes medications, devices and supplies. In general, Canadians with Type 1 diabetes pay more than those with Type 2 diabetes. And, if you're on an insulin pump, you pay a lot more."

In the United States, the cost is much higher; Canada is just better at regulating the cost of insulin. The fact of the matter is, though, that these higher costs and financial burdens have led some families living with diabetes to ration the supplies, which is incredibly dangerous for the patient's health as one might expect.

It's not easy to get financial support either for diabetes supplies. In 2017, my warrior buddy wrote a letter, fighting against changes to the Disability Tax Credit that would hamper the ability of Type 1 diabetics to receive financial support for the supplies they need to survive. Ultimately, these changes never went through, but the fact that this young man saw the changes the Liberal government was trying to make at the time and was brave enough to share what he goes through daily at just 13 years old speaks volumes. No one should have to fight for necessary medications to stay alive, and yet my warrior buddy chose to do what he could to make that happen.

We need diabetes education and understanding; there continue to be those who think that life is more or less over with diabetes. This is so not true; this young man and several other people like him live vibrant, full lives in ways that people without chronic conditions would be hard-pressed to achieve.

What we do need, though, is ongoing research and support into both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes so that we can ultimately eradicate this disease and help those like my buddy continue to live full lives without the financial burden posed by living with the disease.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Chris St-Jean

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